Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Culinary Union Strike Could Be Devastating to Las Vegas.

Yesterday 99% of culinary union members who voted, decided to vote 'yes' in favor of a potential strike.

I understand the reasoning behind this, in fact, I'm not unsympathetic to their claims. I agree that employees at casinos need stronger protections against workplace harassment and I'm on board with them wanting immigration protections as well. I also, somewhat, agree that the entire issue of technology has the potential to disrupt, if not transform, the labor force.

That said I hope it doesn't come to a strike.

And that's not just because I have a trip to Vegas planned in June.

Strikes in the customer service industry never have the intended effect. There are no winners. Customers, many of whom have planned Vegas excursions for a full year, are not going to want to hear excuses and reasoning from either the union or the resorts. What they're going to see are businesses that have no interest in providing them with the customer service that they advertised.

This is separate from whether or not their personal political preferences make them sympathetic to either the plight of the union or the side of the corporations.

Imagine planning a trip to a place all year. You get there, and there's no one to serve you a drink, no one to clean your room, no one to serve you food.  How would you feel?

To be honest, you'd be pissed. And don't give me your high-minded "I'd do OK because I support the unions" bullshit. If it's your vacation that's been disrupted you're going to be angry.

You're going to be angry at Las Vegas.   And you're going to be less likely to visit there in the future because of it.

Vegas is already taking a beating in the press and the forum of public opinion because of the casinos current plans to increase charges, fees and generally make things more of a pain without providing any additional benefits.  Attendance dropped for the last quarter for the first time in a few years.  Yes, the Las Vegas Visitors groups wrote it off as "shooting related" or "because of annual convention rotations" but the fact is less people are heading to Vegas because the value proposition is becoming less and less.

Besides a dizzying array of fees and upcharges that add nothing. there's also the sad fact that casino operators have decided to tighten the odds to a point that even the illusion of a chance is fading away. Of course, the casinos are still raking in money, because they're charging an avalanche of fees and putting price tags on things that used to be free, and are free in almost every other location. The Golden Nugget downtown is even charging for in-room coffee now.  I don't care who you are, that's ridiculous.

So, a person goes to Vegas, spends all of this money on resort fees, rooms (whose rates have increased as well) entertainment, 'entertainment charges' and what not and then they find out no one is there to serve them food or drinks, or provide room service.

What do you think their attitude toward Vegas is going to be going forward?

I've said before that, had I started visiting Vegas today, I would not fall in love with this Vegas. The Vegas that I'm infatuated with is long gone. The wife and I now have to go off-strip to find vestiges of the city we love. I can't imagine someone coming into town and finding the joy that we did in the face of corporate operation. I think that's, in large part, why you see Vegas entering another slump.

In the end a labor strike is nothing more than a lack of creativity on the part of both workers and management. The "technology" issue is evidence of that.  Casinos want to increase the use of technology to reduce staff and save costs, customer experience be damned. Workers want to wade into the pool and raise their hands and yell "STOP", as did King Canute to the rising tide,  when it comes to technology but it doesn't have to be that way.

How about if both sides consider a "retrain and retain" method of dealing with technology which allows casinos to implement technology in a manner that cuts costs and improves the customer experience while retraining staff to fill roles that also improve the customer experience?

And that's the biggest thing missing from all of these talks, any concern for the most important entity to both party, the people who are paying the money which allow for strong corporate profits and a strong employment market: The customer.

Once both sides lose track of that then a strike becomes possible. Once that happens Las Vegas could be facing a day where there are too few customers to continue the status quo.

It's possible the city is already heading that way and doesn't know it yet.  They might if this strike takes place.

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